Luke 17:10 ESV – So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
Finally, Jesus shows us the true meaning of the parable. After all this talk about how the disciples would act if they were the master: how demanding, how selfish, and how ungrateful they would be, He demonstrates that it is they who are the servants.
We can’t really say this is a surprise, though. We’ve known all along that Jesus is alluding to the fact that we are the servants and He is the master. As the Scripture says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)
We have become slaves of righteousness. We owe all to Christ, and He owes us nothing – no rest, no thanks, nothing.
Let’s take this back to the beginning. Jesus has told his disciples about the importance of forgiveness. How, if your brother repents, you must forgive him. The disciples look at this, and say, “There’s no way we can do this! Lord, increase our faith, so we can obey!” Then, in verse 6, Jesus tells them, “You’re right, you have no faith.” Then he jumps into this story about how a servant is treated, if they were the master.
The point of the parable is to explain how it is our duty, as Christians, to forgive. Is it difficult? Yes. It’s like plowing a field all day. Every thought, every action, every fiber of our being is against forgiving others, even though we want it for ourselves. And to have to do it repeatedly! It’s as if after we plowed a field, we were forced to come in and serve people without any nourishment ourselves! Preposterous!
And Jesus knows the disciples hearts and yours and mine. And He says to us, “You think it’s preposterous, but you are an unworthy servant. This hard work is only your duty.” We are so self-centered to think that we’ve done God a favor. We think that we have gone above and beyond in our selflessness that we are the model servant. He reminds us of our place: at the bottom of the totem pole. He is the master; He says to forgive. It is our duty.
If we ended here, it would be true, but it wouldn’t be the whole truth. Jesus has spent some time on this story showing how the disciples would treat their servants (and we would treat ours) to see that if God were to demand this of us, then we would have to say He’s fair. If He treated us like this, it should be what we expect from a fair master. Here’s the rest of the truth, however: God’s not just a fair master, He’s the best master.
When we’ve worked all day, and we’re spiritually exhausted, and there’s a dinner to make, new clothes to be worn, and people to serve, He doesn’t sit there and just merely observe. He gives us more of His Spirit to empower us. When we are faithless, wondering how we’ll ever be able to accomplish what He’s asked, He doesn’t leave us alone, wallowing in sorrow. He gives us faith and helps us to see the things that formerly we could never see. And at the end of the day – at the end of this life – when we’ve striven to live this life in obedience to our Master, we will say we are unworthy servants. He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt 25:23).
So, yes, I need faith. Yes, I need strength. Yes, I am an unworthy servant. Today, I will serve Him to the best of my ability. I won’t do it because I need Him, though I do. I will do it because He is a good master.
And that is why I can call my owner, “My Father.”